Terra Madre communities protest against land lease

Slow Food Australia | 2 March 2009

Reports of protests, poverty, and political unrest have seen Madagascar appearing in the news in recent weeks. However, few stories have revealed what is happening simultaneously in the countryside - a multinational agricultural project that will have a huge impact on the majority of the population.

SOUTH Korean company Daewoo Logistic has secured the use of 1.3 million hectares of land for 99 years - over half of the cultivable land on all of Madagascar. With plans to use the land for the cultivation of corn and palm oil, the company has declared that if the contract is successful they will also construct new streets, schools and hospitals.

But these promises are doing little to appease those who are concerned about the social impoverishment and destabilization that the project will cause: small farmers forced to leave their land and become workers on this intensive monoculture project; the loss of agricultural traditions and food security; and the threat of worsening food shortages given that the harvest is destined for export back to South Korea.

Representatives of local Terra Madre food communities, including around 1000 farmers of red rice, vanilla and other products, have denounced this project which they say is capable of causing an ecological catastrophe on this island. Sitting around 480 kilometres off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar’s ecosystems have developed in isolation over the centuries and alone include five percent of the world’s species, eighty percent of which are endemic.

‘The government has stated that the project is still in the phase of evaluation. However, the president and director general of Daewoo confirmed that the final agreement has been reached, regional heads have signed the contract and they are now defining the piece of land in question’ wrote Rindra Andriambola, co-ordinator of the Andasibe red rice Slow Food praesidium.

‘The small farmers cannot do anything in the face of this giant. We can only cry over the loss of our ancestor’s land, that we have tried to preserve as best as possible,’ said Rindra. ‘It is also not clear yet whether this company will use GM seeds and chemical products. We hoped to pull our community out of poverty by entering the organic market, but now we don’t know what to do. We are currently working to organize a major protest campaign, and you can help us by making our voice heard.’

Rindra Andriambola
[email protected]
First published 23 Feb 2009 by Slow Food
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